P.E. Gobry, writing for The Week:
From the beginning, what set apart the new and strange sect called Christians from the rest of their culture was their strange sexual ethic… Christians held a bizarrely exalted view of (lifelong, monogamous, fertile, heterosexual) marriage as reflecting the image of God himself, but, even more bizarrely, held up lifelong celibacy as an even more exalted state of life. From the start, alongside the refusal to worship the Roman emperor as a god and Christians’ supererogatory care for the poor, this was what set Christians apart, and goes a long way toward explaining why Pagan writers could scorn Christianity as a religion of “slaves and women.”
Leaving aside the main point of this article, this pastoral of early Christians as the lone torchbearers of clean living strikes me as too convenient and cartoonish to be accurate. In particular it seems at odds with the perspective offered by C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image:
I have read a novel which represents all the Pagans of that day as carefree sensualists, and all the Christians as savage ascetics. It is a grave error. They were in some ways far more like each other than either was like a modern man… A world-renouncing, ascetic, and mystical character then marked the most eminent Pagans no less than their Christian opponents. It was the spirit of the age. Everywhere, on both sides, men were turning away from the civic virtues and the sensual pleasures to seek an inner purgation and a supernatural goal. A modern who dislikes the Christian Fathers would have disliked the Pagan philosophers equally, and for similar reasons… To a modern eye (and nostril) Julian with his long nails and densely populated beard might have seemed very like an unwashed monk out of the Egyptian desert.